HARSONO, FX, Demokrasi
This sequence of photographs, which spells out the word ‘democracy’ in sign language, is Indonesian artist FX Harsono’s plea on behalf of those without a voice. The last hand is tied with rope. Produced at a time of widespread censorship toward the end of President Suharto’s New Order regime, Demokrasi is a subtle work the meaning of which is necessarily hidden in a ‘secret’ language; the word is translated only when viewers stamp the pieces of paper provided, revealing itself letter by letter. This game-like code suggests communication between those who must share their hopes for greater freedom secretly. The simplicity of the black-and-white newsprint-style images alludes to photojournalism, which is often not permitted to tell the full story. For Harsono, art is one way of breaking through the silence for those who cannot speak freely.